Happy talk and the old Mass

On a whim, I stuck “dream of a church” into Google. What came up, it seemed to me, was rah-rah stuff from people who want the community spirit of the church to substitute for God. It’s a kind of bootstraps approach to religion that doesn’t make much sense, because the whole point of religion is that we can’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

The unreformed Mass reflects what church can do for us much more accurately:

Introibo ad altare Dei.

Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.

Judica me, Deus, et discerne causam meam de gente non sancta: ab homine iniquo et doloso erue me.

Quia tu es, Deus, fortitudo mea: quare me repulisti, et quare tristis incedo, dum affligit me inimicus?

Emitte lucem tuam et veritatem tuam: ipsa me deduxerunt et adduxerunt in montem sanctum tuum, et in tabernacula tua.

Et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam.

Confitebor tibi in cithara, Deus, Deus meus: quare tristis es anima a mea, et quare conturbas me?

[I will go to the altar of God.

To God, the joy of my youth.

Do me justice, O God, and fight my fight against an unholy people, rescue me from the wicked and a deceitful man.

For Thou, O God, art my strength, why hast Thou forsaken me? And why do I go about in sadness, while the enemy harasses me?

Send forth Thy light and thy truth: for they have led me and brought me to thy holy hill and Thy dwelling place.

And I will go to the altar of god, to God, the joy of my youth.

I shall yet praise Thee upon the harp, O God, my God. Why art thou sad, my soul, and why art thou downcast?]

The text assumes that we’re not flushed with confidence, that a lot of things are going badly, that we suspect the best days may be past, and that we don’t feel that close to God. It presents those as the very things that make us feel the need to approach God through the sacraments.

Modern religious proclamations use happy talk that does nothing for us. The text of the old Mass does something much more useful.

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